Following the leaks, Microsoft decided to officially take the wraps off the new title for Project Natal, which is now dubbed as “Kinect” for Xbox 360 ahead of their E3 media event. If you have been living under a rock or something and don’t know what it is all about: Kinect for Xbox 360 (formerly Project Natal) introduces controller-free gaming with which you take full control of the games by simply moving around, jumping, punching and kicking or whatever you feel like doing. It will detect almost anything you do! You can even move through the beautiful interface by swiping your hands back and forth ala Minority Report style!
Details of the demos which folks from Engadget gleaned for the rest of us are as follows.
- Almost everything was one person at a time, particularly in the Kinect Sports games. Even a game like beach volleyball or soccer was boiled down to individual "moments" of interaction that get strung together into some sort of competition. Even the running in place games were one at a time, though the river rafting and mining cart games (both with a similar mechanic of jumping and ducking through an obstacle course while picking up tokens) could be played with two people at a time. You can at least play games like volleyball simultaneously with someone else over Xbox Live.
- An interesting mechanic we saw was a second player "jumping in" to a game. In the mining cart scenario, when the second player jumped in it immediately went split screen, while in soccer different players took turns by just jumping into position. Sure, some of this stuff was edited for our benefit, but it seems Microsoft is working to make the introduction of a second player or the switching between players something less button-heavy.
- The Star Wars game was pretty badass-looking — you play a Jedi, rushing down storm troopers and deflecting laser bolts left and right, wielding a few Force powers, and confronting a certain deep-voiced Sith Lord for a one-on-one duel. Based on the gestures and action we saw, though, it was a pretty heavily scripted experience. Still, there’s no scripting a two-handed light saber grip, and that particular action looked like everything we’ve ever wanted in a Star Wars game.
- The yoga game is actually a pretty smart use of the infrared and joint detection software we espied previously. Positions were "checked" by points on the joint — making it certainly harder to fake the moves on Wii Fit — and it seemed to have a tai chi element to it. Your avatar glowed a more intense red based on your three-dimensional approximation — bright red for hands stretched forward, for example.
- Next up: Kinectimals, a baby tiger pet simulator. You can scratch its ears, snuggle, and teach the little guy to jump and play dead. Adorable? Dangerously so. No one can tell us the developer, but based on the lighting effects, art style, and similarities to the previously-shown Milo, we’d wager a guess that it was Lionhead Studios.
- The Kinect menu interface is about as simple as could be. You wave your hand to control a glowing cursor of sorts, and you push forward to "click" on the element you want. Of course, there’s also a very simplified version of the Dashboard to go along with this control mechanism, so it’s unclear if you’ll be able to do everything via subtle hand waves, but the Twitter, Facebook, Zune and Netflix icons were clearly present.
- The MTV Games-developed Dance Central has some on staff divided — only Ross will actually admit to being interested in playing it. A series of dance moves are presented, including elbow jabs, swinging leg, guitar, "rocking out" (with your hand in the air). The art style is akin to Rock Band / Guitar Hero, and to be fair, this is probably one of those games that can’t be done as well on any other console.
Even though the price and availability hasn’t been announced yet, it is expected to cost around $150 and will be available around holiday season 2010. Microsoft is expected to announce more details at their press conference tomorrow. Stay tuned!
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